In their centenary year, the Wright family, of Berryholme Farm in the Lake District, won a prestigious pedigree award. Sarah Liddle reports.

NESTLED on the edge of the Lake District National Park, near the town of Kendal, you’ll find the Wright family and their herd of Berryholme Holsteins. In 2019 they were winners of the coveted Premier Pedigree Herd award run by Holstein UK, which recognises the high standard of stock conformation attained across a whole herd, rather than simply good individual animals. The herd won the Lancashire Herds Competition, before being put forward for the Northern region, and when they won that as regional winners, they went all the way to National champions. After this achievement the farm had planned to open its doors to hundreds of people this June, so they could see the quality of the herd and stock for themselves, but this has now been rescheduled for some as yet undated point in the future.

The Wright family have been farming at Berryholme Farm for 100 years, so it was fitting that in their centenary year, father and son Francis and David, should win this prestigious accolade.

The Northern Farmer:

Francis’ blacksmith grandfather, Joseph, bought the farm in 1919 while running his smithy business in half of the local pub. His son Harold, 11-years-old at the time, was interested in rearing stock and eventually went on to milk some Shorthorns. Fast forward a generation to the time when Harold’s son Francis left school and they started to milk British Friesians, registering their first Friesian in 1965. Francis, with wife Anne and right-hand man Thomas Atkinson, developed the herd and farm. David, joined the team full time in the early 2000s, and is now the fourth-generation farmer at the family farm. Tragically Anne passed away in 2013 but would have been overjoyed by the recent success.

Today they milk 140 Holsteins twice a day (plus followers), averaging 10,864kg at 4.17% BF and 3.16% P. During summer months, cows graze during the day and are buffer-fed at night. In the winter they are housed in sand cubicles on TMR. Animals are split into high-yielders and low-yielders/PD plus and fresh calvers, with the majority in cubicles and a handful in straw pens for some extra TLC. They began classifying in 2001 and the herd now boasts 37 EX and 79 VG animals. In 2017, David married Naomi, who is now a fully-fledged member of the Berryholme team. A self-employed psychotherapist, in her spare time Naomi feeds the calves alongside Francis who is still actively involved with the daily running of the farm.

The wedding week was one to remember, with the new dairy also being put in, upgrading from an eight-a-side herringbone to a 14-a-side GEA parlour.

The Northern Farmer:

A few years prior, in 2013, a new shed was built to house dry and freshly-calved cows. In a bid to be as efficient as possible, the Wrights are also investing in new rope scrapers, a straw blower and – Naomi hopes – a milk taxi! But winning the highly-esteemed Premier Pedigree Herd competition is primarily about the cows. Amazingly, 2019 was the first-ever time that Berryholme had even entered their club’s summer herd competition, let alone get through to the national finals. In winning the National Judge Dennis Smith (owner of the now dispersed Oakroyal herd who won the competition in 2018) said: “They are a world-class herd which everyone should see.”

Sound cow families are essential to the Berryholme ethos and, despite bringing in some new families, foundation families still thrive there. One of the most consistent families is the Lindas. Berryholme Infloence Linda 3 EX96-6E won the 2015 National Holstein Show at UK Dairy Day and is the 10th generation of Lindas who amazingly stemmed back to Berryholme Linda – the first-ever animal registered at Berryholme in 1965. Infloence Linda 3 has reached LP110 to date and recently calved her ninth , a Stantons Chief heifer, having already bred an EX90 Windbrook daughter.

The Maud family is another original family with David saying that Berryholme Goldwyn Maud EX93 is probably one of the best cows at Berryholme. While probably most famously linked to the Berryholme prefix are the legendary Flos, the backbone of the herd. In the 1999 Holmland dispersal, Francis and David purchased Holmland Storm Flo EX94-5E LP110 29*, a grand-daughter of Cardsland Eclipse Flo EX96-2E – an animal they had always admired. Storm Flo classified VG88 as a two-year-old, got two All-Britain wins under her belt and went on to win the 2003 National Holstein Show. The Wrights began a lot of ET work with Flo and really got the family established, having registered 43 progeny with the Berryholme prefix. New cow families have been introduced recently through purchased embryos.

David admits that 10 years ago he was striving to breed the best show cow, but these days he knows his market, selling 40 freshly-calved animals every year as well as six-10 stock bulls annually. At present he is favouring the balanced type bull with the aim of breeding a functional cow – not forgetting production and style. Francis, David, Naomi, Thomas look forward to welcoming everyone to Berryholme sometime in the future.